Now that the calendar has turned to November, we are firmly in the midst of the Q4 advertising season. While Black Friday kicks off consumers’ holiday shopping seasons on November 24, ad campaigns promoting the sales begin earlier and earlier each year. Brands finalized their Black Friday creative and media plans long ago, and for all intents and purposes, much of the most prized TV inventory is sold. With higher demand for ad slots, the cost of remaining inventory grows upward while clearance rates trend downward in the weeks prior to the holiday sales, as can be seen in the graph below. Brands playing in the remnant market who did not book advanced via Non-preemptible (NPE) buys are forced to factor this in.
The mad rush for inventory ahead of Black Friday and the subsequent holiday shopping is because this is the most critical time for many brands to reach consumers, drive purchases, and earn the majority of their annual revenue. However, a Q4 or Black Friday TV campaign may not be the right play for every brand, and marketers who didn’t run one or still want to make a final push before the year closes can look to the so-called “Q5” as a golden opportunity.
Q5 represents the down period that extends from directly before Christmas up to New Year’s. This is a time on the TV advertising calendar when there are usually plenty of efficient media deals to be had as the market is far less competitive and consumers’ spending habits are still very high. For some nimble (and ambitious) brands, running a Q5 TV campaign may just be the right strategy for achieving end-of-year goals.
Christmas may come toward the end of December, but holiday purchases – especially those requiring shipping – must be made much sooner. As a result, November and early December are often the tightest time of the year when buying TV inventory. The lingering effects of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes further complicate this, because highly desirable content was likely purchased even earlier this year. This includes big tent poles like sports, as well as any new scripted TV that made it to air.
Q5 is roughly a 2 week opportunity
Q5 starts around December 22 (when shipping deadlines have passed), but we expect to see benefits starting the week of December 18th, and into the week of Jan 1st. With less demand, inventory pricing looks different, creating opportunities for savvy advertisers. We’ve even seen CPMs that are 95% off (or below) their typical rates during this time! It is the perfect moment to try typically more expensive buys and learn about their performance.
In addition to all the above, Q5 TV viewership on certain networks (like ESPN, NFL Network and NBA TV) can be greater than the rest of the Q4 period. This is because consumers are often cozying up with family to watch TV, possibly tuning in to one of the marquee sports matchups.
Who can win in Q5?
The truth is that any advertiser can benefit from Q5 because it’s the perfect time for testing TV advertising. This holds true for digitally-native brands that are dabbling in TV for the first time, as well as brands that want to test more expensive reach buys without compromising on performance… Affordable inventory is always appealing for running tests. Doing these tests at the very end of the year also lets brands spend any surplus budget, and then use the results to determine if they need to adjust investment levels in 2024.
Certain categories can also benefit greatly, especially health and wellness. Many consumers don’t begin new health regimens immediately before the holiday rush. Instead, they kick these off to start the new year.
For Veyl, the holding company behind the health brands L‘EvateYou, Dr. Kellyann, and NatureM.D., Black Friday and Q4 are actually lower seasonal moments. “We’re a health brand, and most people don’t feel like getting into the best shape of their lives two weeks before Thanksgiving,” said Joshua Kim, Head of Growth at Veyl.
For plant-based meal delivery service Daily Harvest, Black Friday and Q4 are also not their peak shopping moments due to significant travel and holiday eating. Courtney Kociemba, VP of Marketing at Daily Harvest, said, "We see our most significant spike in sales in Q5 and Q1. The new year, new me mentality is when people are more likely to want to get healthier, and we are fortunate to take advantage of better media pricing in Q5."
Nimble brands stand to win
It’s not only health and wellness brands that can find success advertising in Q5. The combination of an inventory surplus, efficient pricing, and consumers’ desire to shop presents a valuable opportunity that spans across verticals. While it may not make sense to tie these campaigns directly to holiday sales or promotions, brands willing to act quickly and buy inventory in Q5 can likely find themselves driving real-world outcomes and extra revenue as they close out the year.